Review: Zoom R8 Recorder Sampler Interface Controller

Why, you may ask, would anyone buy a hardware recorder when everyone owns a computer these days and DAW software is cheap and powerful? One good reason is true portability, as even a laptop computer–based recording system requires a jumbled mess of interfaces, mic preamps and other peripherals that aren’t as convenient and compact as an all-in-one system. Zoom’s new R8 Recorder ups the ante by also providing sampling, a digital-audio I/O interface and DAW controller functions in addition to its ability create eight-track 24-bit/48kHz recordings.


Unlike many previous stand-alone digital multitrack recorders, the Zoom R8 is designed to work not only on its own but also as a complement to a computer-based DAW system (more on this below). The unit is surprisingly small and lightweight, but it’s packed with features like individual level sliders for all eight tracks plus a master fader, multi-function play/mute/record buttons, transport controls, jog wheel, cursor keys, 24-/48-volt phantom power for mics that require it, two combo XLR/1/4-inch input jacks, stereo 1/4-inch output jacks, headphone output and much more.

The R8 records up to two tracks simultaneously and provides a maximum of eight tracks. Audio is recorded to removable SDHC cards (up to 32GB) in WAV format at either 16-bit/44.1kHz or 24-bit/48kHz resolution. The unit also functions as a high-speed USB 2.0 two-in/two-out audio interface and can be connected to a computer via USB to function as a control surface for DAW software, like Cubase LE5, which is bundled with the R8. The sampler section provides eight pads for triggering up to eight samples, including drum sounds provided on the included 2GB SD card.


The R8 can be powered from an electrical outlet, via USB when connected to a computer or with four AA batteries to let you make music anywhere you go. Because it records a maximum of two tracks at once, it may not be ideal for turning band rehearsals into multitrack masterpieces, but it’s great for building arrangements by overdubbing new tracks over live stereo recordings of an entire band or guitar and vocal demos laid down by a solo performer. In typical Zoom fashion, the R8 includes a vast variety of excellent built-in effects that are useful for vocals, instruments and mixing applications.

The R8 is exceptionally easy to operate, allowing you to capture ideas instantly while they’re still fresh. Thanks to its portability, you’ll never have to worry about losing ideas again.


The Zoom R8 is an exceptionally portable and powerful digital multitrack recorder that works equally well as a standalone unit or integrated with a computer-based DAW.


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Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.